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LemonCitrusTree Citrus Tree Care
Click below for our fruit tree care guides:
Growing Citrus in Containers
Citrus trees are especially suited for container growing as they can be kept at manageable sizes. Trees planted in decorative pots are attractive on a patio or apartment balcony. In colder zones or during freezing weather, bring the citrus indoors. These tips can help you on the way to successful citrus growing in containers:
How to Plant in Containers
We recommend using commercially available potting mixes. Using dirt (native soil from your yard) in a container is not advisable. We also advise against putting gravel or any other material on the bottom of the pot, as this negatively impacts drainage over time. The perfect high porosity soil mix can be hard to find, but we have found rose garden soil mixes (formulated for outside use) work well. Soils that are too heavy can be amended with about 1/3 to 1/2 volume of 1" redwood shavings, hardwood chips or cedar hamster bedding. Pine and spruce shavings tend to break down more quickly, so are not ideal. Place the prepared soil mix in the bottom of your new container. Gently slide tree roots out of the old container, and detangle any circling roots so that growth in the new pot will not be impeded. Place the loosened root mass into the new container and gently fill with your fresh planting mix. Lightly pack down the soil to remove large air spaces from the root zone. The top of the roots should be just beneath the soil surface, and the crown roots (root collar area) should show above the soil line. Water deeply. Stake loosely and secure with a tie if needed. It’s a good idea to repot every year or so, or when you see roots peeking through drainage hole.
Selecting a Location for Indoor/Outdoor ContainersSunny, wind-free locations with southern exposure are the best. If in doubt, leave the tree in its plastic container and place it in the spot you have in mind. After a week or two, you should be able to tell if the tree is thriving.
Consistency is the key when watering citrus. Citrus trees require soil that is moist but never soggy. Watering frequency will vary with soil porosity, tree size, and environmental factors. DO NOT WATER IF THE TOP OF THE SOIL IS DRY WITHOUT CHECKING THE SOIL AT ROOT LEVEL! A simple moisture meter, available at garden supply stores, will read moisture at the root level. This inexpensive tool will allow you to never guess about whether or not a plant needs water. (Also note the dowel method as described in item 7 above.) A wilted tree that perks up within 24 hours after watering indicates the roots got too dry. Adjust the watering schedule accordingly. A tree with yellow or cupped leaves, or leaves that don't look perky AFTER watering can indicate excessive watering and soggy roots. Give your tree water less often. Citrus trees prefer infrequent, deep watering to frequent, shallow sprinklings. Deeper watering promotes deeper root growth and strengthens your tree. Generally, deep watering once or twice per week works well for container specimens. Be sure to adjust your watering regimen based on weather conditions!
Citrus trees feed heavily on nitrogen. Your fertilizer should have more nitrogen (N) than phosphorous (P) or potassium (K). Use at least a 2-1-1 ratio. (16:8:8, 24:10:10, 14:6:5, and 18:6:6 are examples that will work well.) In some regions, you may be able to find specialized citrus/avocado fertilizers. Any good citrus formula will contain trace minerals like iron, zinc, and manganese. Many all-purpose and commercial organic products will work. We prefer slow release fertilizers in the granular form rather than fertilizer stakes. Fertilizers come in different strengths, release rates, and application schedules, so follow package instructions carefully. We recommend that you fertilize more often than recommended with most slow release fertilizers. Yellowing leaves indicate lack of fertilizer or poor drainage.
Know where the graft union is on your tree. It can usually be seen as a diagonal scar between four and eight inches from the soil. Remove all shoot growth below the graft. These "suckers" take vitality from the top of the tree (the fruiting wood). The growth of suckers is especially vigorous on young trees. Remove them as soon as they are observed.
Thorns are removed from rootstocks when they are grafted. Juvenile fruiting wood will sometimes have thorns; this is a young plant's way of defending against grazing animals. As the tree matures, thorns will not appear as often. Prune off thorns if desired.